Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/783

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

sion of evolutionary doctrine. Evolution does not assert, it denies that ape evolves into man. Evolution undertakes to show why it is perfectly impossible that man should ever evolve into ape. Prof. Shedd ought to know this, or, if he does not, he ought to refrain from attacking what he does not understand. There is a misprint in one of his pages which is highly significant. He speaks of Darwin's work on "insectivorous animals"! A misprint, of course, yet how characteristically a sign that the author was moving about in a world not realized when he wrote those pages! A scientist reading proof, with a spark of vitality left in him, could no more have passed over that blunder than Prof. Shedd could have passed over a careless expression which might have implied that he believed the mercy of God was of equal rank with his justice. In one case as in the other the thing would have seemed so horrible a mistake that instinct without intellect would have prevented its finally getting printed.

The worst of it is that there is no reason whatever to suspect Dr. Shedd's perfect honesty in all this. When he says that evolution has failed to obtain general currency, he undoubtedly believes it. Evidence to the contrary he either has not read or has not weighed. If he were to see what Romanes says in his latest book, and says wholly in passing, wholly as a matter of course, that there is not living a naturalist of note who is not an evolutionist, he would probably be greatly surprised. If he were to read the evidence gathered a few years ago by the "Independent," and recently by the "Christian Union," going to show that evolution underlies the scientific teaching of all our leading colleges, he would probably be greatly alarmed. I repeat that Prof. Shedd is undoubtedly entirely honest in his ignorance; and I say that that is the worst of it, because it lends the influence of his high character and great learning and unusual ability to the spread of erroneous and disastrous beliefs.

Narrowly considered, it is in reality a conspicuous and crowning testimony to the place which evolution has taken in the thought of the world, that Prof. Shedd should have, at last, taken up the cudgels against it. It is like exerting influence back into the seventeenth century. It is a doctrine of the nineteenth century, making such a din, cutting up so much of the inherited theology by the roots, that Turretin looks out uneasily from his grave to see what the row is all about. Such a remark is in the line of what the professor considers the highest compliment. He prefers to be known as scholastic. A student who listened to a year's lectures from him, a decade ago, reported that but two books written in this century were referred to—and, as one of these was Hodge's "Theology," that, as the student admitted, reduced the number to one. The writer heard the late President